Sustaining offices and commercial spaces after the pandemic
A case study of No. 1 Causeway, Staines, by James Ward, Project Director and Associate Director at Arup
While the pandemic has undoubtedly presented many challenges for the architecture and construction industries, this was no more the case than in the commercial office sector. Restrictions on working from home have been in place – intermittently – since March 2020, amid various lockdowns over the past two years. As such, our concept of the dynamics of traditional working life – in terms of how and where we do our daily work – has been irrevocably altered and with it: the post-pandemic office may never again be quite does the same.
The “death of the office” is not yet upon us, however. As we embrace the hybrid working structure, it looks like they’re here to stay. In fact, last month data revealed that offices in London were at their peak since the start of the pandemic, with 42% occupancy. But the wants and needs of employees will likely continue to evolve, which means post-pandemic office space will also continue to change.
This presents exciting challenges and opportunities for those working in the post-pandemic office. For our engineering team at Arup, the design and development of No. 1 Causeway, a crescent-shaped office building in Staines, Surrey, in the midst of this environment provided an opportunity to reflect, improve how and what we design in the long term sector .
The design of the building – a repetitive facade punctuated by integrated vertical fins – is sympathetic to the English crescent tradition followed by John Nash, John Wood and Neave Brown. However, despite its heralding influences from Regency architecture, its focus is on the future.
Staying agile and managing a project during a pandemic
A pandemic is an exemplary way to demonstrate the delicate balance between meeting contemporary and future use requirements. With the upheavals caused by the lockdowns requiring efficient management and delivery of constructions under restrictions while remaining constantly open to changing plans and potential uses throughout the project, No. 1 Causeway is a prototype project.
Forming the new entrance to the next-generation campus, Causeway Business Park, the space was specifically developed in response to the growing demand for commercial areas in the Southeast region.
Just over six months later, the pandemic hit. As a result, the business objectives of the project pivoted. The team had to develop a space aligned with pandemic sensitivities, adapting plans to the ever-changing lockdown measures. Likewise, it has become essential to prepare it for multiple use while protecting it against potential virus variants.
In response, antiviral design measures have been incorporated into the building to meet contemporary demands and provide security and comfort in equal measure. These included UV air filtration, touchless elevators, and antimicrobial hardware and sanitary ware.
Developing future-oriented office buildings
The ambition is for Causeway #1 to create opportunities for the vibrant, connected, mixed-use community it serves, while allowing for sufficient maneuverability as demands and needs change in the future. This is delivered via its 11,180 sqm space, which has five floors of flexible workspace for multiple tenants.
Large, efficient floor plates provide uninterrupted space that can be adapted over time to suit a wide variety of occupants.
Ensuring that the use of space has been maximized to its full potential has also been considered in the design: the floor plan is crescent-shaped, stepped to the east to allow for an increase in a width of 24 m in the south to 30 m in the north.
Efficient construction methods were also essential to ensure the project was completed on time. For example, the basic design was delivered as an express kit of parts, with prefabricated elements in the façade and structure as well, helping to reduce program duration and associated risks.
Integrating sustainability into offices and commercial spaces post-pandemic
Although it was developed with the pandemic in mind, the team did not lose sight of the durability requirements of Pavement #1.
The ambition for the facade – which is a simple repetitive module, laid out on a 1.5 grid with a vertical rhythm – is to aim for a full/empty ratio of 30%, while maintaining a generous appearance both inside and outside. the outside. This aims to minimize energy consumption by reducing heat loss and solar gain. Currently, the building achieves a full/empty ratio of 30%, with a typical bay on the west elevation achieving a ratio of 37.5%.
Extending the connection to the natural world beyond the building into the surrounding landscape of the nearby Thames was also vital to the future use of the space. This has encouraged new growth and wildlife, with willow plantations that are flood resistant, hardy and easy to manage.
Additionally, by providing optimal internal environments for occupant well-being, No. 1 Causeway has achieved BREEAM Excellent.
The true impact of the pandemic on the way we work and design office buildings has yet to fully emerge – and perhaps not for many years. To deal with such uncertainty, our industry must remain flexible through innovative and agile design. This will ensure that the next generation of commercial spaces, such as Causeway No. 1, will be ready for anything. By taking into account the evolution of use, demands and needs, these projects will truly fulfill a multi-purpose ambition, serving a wide range of society.
Project Director, Causeway 1
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7636 1531